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Debris from 2011 tsunami carried invasive species to North America

Oregon Coast Aquarium employees recover fish from a boat washed ashore from JapanCredit: Oregon Coast Aquarium

The 2011 Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami washed massive amounts of debris into the sea. Boats, docks and parts of houses circulated in the Pacific and landed on the shores of North America, carrying animals native to Japan with them. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers documented the scope of this unprecedented event for the first time.

Why it matters: The authors are concerned this might be a glimpse of the future. More people live along the seashore than ever before, and as major storms and associated surges become more common, massive rafting events like this may also increase, speeding the distribution of invasive species across the oceans.